Certainly all human beings make mistakes, including people standing in the five-fold offices mentioned in the New Testament: apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist, and teacher (Eph. 4:11). It seems more common to suspect prophets of being false than the others, when in truth, false teachers have done more damage to the Church.
Making a mistake does not mean one is a false prophet or teacher or pastor. It means he is human. “We know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9) (The subject of false prophets and teachers is for another article.)
When a true minister is functioning in his office, he is in partnership with the Holy Spirit. The part that is human can misspeak. Even the prophet Nathan gave presumptuous advice to King David and then the Lord corrected him with a more accurate word (1 Chron.17).
“My prophecy doesn’t seem to be right”
If your prophecy does not seem to apply to you, there are several possible reasons:
1. The prophet made a mistake. If you have a relationship with him or her or have been invited to provide feedback, you can ask the prophet to help you understand.
2. The word was accurate but the application is not. For example, the word could be speaking about your church family, but you thought it meant your natural family.
3. The word speaks of things to come even if spoken in the past tense. Or the prophet sees a time in the future but uses words that give the word a present setting. For example, the prophet Isaiah looked hundreds of years into the future, saw the wounds of Jesus on the cross and declared, “With his stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53).
4. The word seems too far-fetched to be true. There are numerous accounts in the Scripture that are like this, including Sarah laughing at hearing she would become a mother when she was already past the child-bearing years (Genesis 18).
5. The word did not tell you what you wanted to hear. Perhaps you wanted to be amazed with powerful words of knowledge about your life instead of hearing the simple message of the Lord. Maybe you were looking for a specific question to be answered, but the word did not address it. I have often found that the Lord has other things to talk about than what our curiosity is necessarily seeking.
Patience with mistakes
Mistakes are made– both by the one who gives a word and by the one who receives. Yet the Scripture admonishes us to “despise not prophesyings” (1 Thess. 5:20). This implies that some people discount and reject prophecy because of human mistakes and short-comings or deferred hope (Prov. 13:12). But we are also to “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
True prophetic ministers do not want to misspeak or misrepresent the Lord. Rather than despise prophecy out right, let us look for the good and have patience with imperfect humans who handle spiritual treasures.